Actor Vikrant Massey, who was most recently in the news for tying the knot with lady love Sheetal Thakur, is back on OTT screens with another impactful role that will no doubt add to his already versatile repertoire.
We last interacted with the Haseen Dillruba star a few months ago when he talked up his bubbly romcom 14 Phere, which contrasts starkly, story-wise, with his latest project, the violent, blood-spattered Love Hostel, helmed by Gurgaon director Shanker Raman.
The ‘love hostel’ in this ZEE5 Global release streaming now, represents safe houses appointed by the Government of India to provide shelter to consenting adults who wish to marry but encounter hostile objections from their respective families.
It is in one of these that lovers Vikrant (Ashu Shokeen) and Dangal star Sanya Malhotra (Jyoti Dilawar) attempt to take refuge, but are hunted by ruthless mercenary Dagar (Bobby Deol in another admirably risky role after Aashram).
The film while no doubt tackling contemporary issues that continue to prevail in India with regards to the right to marry whom one chooses, is one that is “open to interpretation” to viewers, believes Vikrant.
We caught up with the actor over Zoom to talk about Love Hostel, the constantly evolving world of OTT, his hopes for 2022 amidst the pandemic and more.
Many Bollywood films have broached the subject of lovers being subject to hostility and violence when they go against the wishes of society or their family members. What issues does Love Hostel bring to the forefront and what do you hope viewers take away from it?
The narrative is such that there are many takeaways; you really leave many crumbs out there and leave it up to people’s interpretation and (let them) make it their own.
I really would not want to get into what issues we are going to represent because we are not representing anything as such. In a world that you and I are aware of, we’ve created two beautiful characters which you probably could recognize. And it’s your journey from there on. It’s about two star-crossed lovers who are on the run.
Metaphorically speaking you could say the character played by Bobby Deol is everything of what we see around us or resembles our surroundings. And it’s an entertaining film at the end of it all.
It’s something that will leave you thinking and feeling, and hopefully you enjoy it at the same time.
So we’re not her to sermonize or be clairvoyants for a particular cause - Love Hostel is about two lovers, it’s about the world most of us identify with.
What can you tell us about your character Ashu?
He’s a very regular looking guy from North India, but as you watch Love Hostel and sort of start diving into his world is when you realize that he’s much more than what meets the eye.
None of us are perfect; everyone’s got their own demons to face, and so does he. And that’s when you realize this guy is more than what he seems on the surface, which is the guy next door.
He’s madly in love with Jyoti, and all he wants in life is to live another day with her, and he’s fighting against all odds to make that a possibility.
When you have to fight to give yourself that basic and fundamental right as an adult to a simple thing as being able to love the one you love, with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, is what his situation is.
It’s kind of edgy, kind of unpredictable at the same time. There’s a lot going on with him.
In the film you are hunted by a mercenary played by Bobby Deol who is right now making a great impact with grey-shaded roles. What was it was it like working with him?
We really didn’t have common scenes. We did have a few action sequences together, but I wish I’d had more time to interact with him, and just generally talk about his journey, his life.
I’ve always watched his films; in movie halls, or at home on television. It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone like me who has always aspired to be an actor to work with someone he’s always looked up to, who he has probably idolized in so many ways.
Whatever little time I did have with him was fantastic, and I was very happy. He’s a very gentle soul; he’s childlike, and it was a very heartwarming experience.
This is the first time you’re working with Sanya as well - did you know each other beforehand and was it therefore easier to settle into such intense characters?
We knew of each other! We both belong to the same agency, but we hadn’t sat down or interacted before this. The moment we started working we really hit it off. She’s someone I’ve always looked up to for her skill sets.
And I had a very strong gut feeling this was going to be one hell of a collaboration which it definitely turned out to be. I’m really glad I got an opportunity to work with her because she’s one of the most gifted actors of our times, someone I really admire for what she is as an actor and most importantly as a person.
When you play such an intense character as Ashu in Love Hostel, is it difficult to get out of that mode, once the film is completed? How do you wipe the slate clean and go on to the next thing?
There’s no one set method per se, it totally depends from film to film or one experience to the other. But with regards to Love Hostel, I did have a few days wherein it was kind of getting overbearing for me, especially emotionally. I would come back home and find it comparatively difficult to switch off and refresh myself for the next day.
But that’s the nature of the job. There are times when your character or the world that you are probably believing to be true gets the better of you.
The one definite way I reset my clock is coming back home and spending time with my family and friends, and getting back to doing the things that have always been a part of my life.
On the subject of love, is it more complicated in real life than it is in films?
I think both represent each other in a lot of ways. There are crores of people living here, everyone has their own story. To generalize any would be really unfair! But I think all of us have some sense of understanding as to what is happening around us.
As artists we are also somewhere down the line representing or reflecting the times that we are living in. It’s up to you as to which lens you see it from.
You grew up in Mumbai and worked in television and Bollywood before the growth of OTT. What are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in the entertainment industry since then?
In the last 15 years or so we’ve become far more inclusive; the quality of our production has definitely gone up. And a lot of it also has to do with our easy exposure to international content.
When we switch on our television sets or our laptops and we realize the quality of work that’s happening elsewhere, it makes us want to better ourselves, and we’ve done that fairly well. The number of productions has skyrocketed, there are far better stories being made, and it’s only going to get better with time.
Almost every aspect of our lives has been impacted by the pandemic in the past two years. What are your hopes for 2022?
I’m hoping for a far more kinder world, to begin with! What happened in 2019 really kind of shocked us and caught us unawares. We don’t know what lies in store for us.
So somewhere down the line, I stopped planning. I just hope that we get to see another day. If we hang on to the principles of kindness, compassion and empathy, I think the rest would follow in a much better way.
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